In recent months, National Football League players have been criticized for kneeling during the pre-game National Anthem. The NFL players are kneeling to protest the culture of violence against black citizens in our country, especially by members of law enforcement. The movement was started by former 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
These actions quickly spun into a national controversy, leaving the country divided. Many find this action insulting, because they believe it disrespects veterans and members of the military who fight everyday for our country’s safety and prosperity. Some people even take the protest as an assault on the country as a whole. This opinion is held even by our president, Donald Trump. He went as far as to say that those kneeling before their games shouldn’t be paid. Yet, the kneeling has nothing to do with those fighting for our country, it has quite a lot to do with race.
The greatest times of positive change in our country have come from peaceful protest. Acts of silent protest have been taken as far back as the 1913 Suffrage Parade, or the Civil Rights Movement when Rosa Parks sat in the designated white section of the bus to oppose segregation.
In the words of Human Rights Activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his 1957 Power of Nonviolence speech, “We must keep moving with wise restraint and love and with proper discipline and dignity.”
Players such as Seattle Seahawks defender, Michael Bennett, who have knelt during the anthem are stressing that more participation in the protest is crucial. Bennett is also arguing that the protest would be more effective if white players joined in, as so far all the men kneeling have been black. There has, however, been one white United States female soccer player, Megan Rapinoe among those kneeling during their pre-game anthems last year.
The players are taking a knee to ensure that the issue of racism is not put on back burner, even as it begins to turn into almost a social norm. Not to mention, these players are exercising their first amendment right to free speech. They are bringing attention to the fact that brutality is an ongoing issue. The players are also standing- or kneeling should I say- in support of the victims of such violence. Peaceful protests bring people together, and bring the best out of people during the worst of times.